19 January 2014


woodblock print (mokuhanga)
6" x 6" (152.4 x 152.4 mm)
6 layers of color plus blind emboss on Kochi Kozo paper
edition: 20

G is for genie. Genie is an NSA program for accessing foreign computer systems. An August 2013 article in the Washington Post describes the program as an extensive effort by which "U.S. computer specialists break into foreign networks so that they can be put under surreptitious U.S. control." In other words, genie is a program to install malware. Like Stuxnet. Remember that? A couple of years ago, hackers 'discovered' Stuxnet, a military-grade cyber weapon that was used against Iran's nuclear centrifuges. I recall news stories warning that hackers could replicate the code and do all sorts of malicious damage with it. Well, it's pretty clear now that Stuxnet was developed by the U.S. and Israel.

 There's a saying that it's hard to put a genie back in a bottle. This is true on so many levels when it comes to the NSA spying issues. Malware can't be put back in the bottle. The Snowden revelations can't be put back in the bottle. And our personal data can't be put back in the bottle either. The genie is all the way out of the bottle.

Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman with bottle
When I started working on this one, I first thought of the genie in Disney's Aladdin, but that genie came out of a lamp, and my genie definitely needed to be in a bottle. So I started looking at the bottle from the 1960s television show I Dream of Jeannie. The 1960s were full of television shows that were about space, technology, and/or spying during the cold war and I Dream of Jeannie was part of that genre. Jeannie (played by Barbara Eden), a 2,000-year-old Persian speaking genie, was found by Captain Tony Nelson (Larry Hagman), a U.S. astronaut, when he splashed down in the South Pacific. Much of the show's drama revolved around Tony trying to keep his Jeannie a secret so that he wouldn't lose his job and his security clearance.

The first season of I Dream of Jeannie was filmed in black and white, and the bottle from that season was a dark, smoke-green color, with a painted gold leaf pattern. I used this original bottle rather than the later purple/pink one for its more aged and serious appearance. Apparently the bottle was actually a special Christmas 1964 Jim Beam decanter; you can read a whole Wikipedia article about the I Dream of Jeannie bottle here.

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